onward and upward

Greetings to you, from the leeward side of January.

I was in Boston for a day last weekend, looking at apartments and spaces for the UnLAB, and I took this shot from the window of a room on the 22nd floor of the Sheraton in Back Bay.


This is where I’m headed as soon as the CGB books go to press, except I’ll actually be viewing from a 4th floor walkup (!) in Beacon Hill, a bit to the right and forward. As usual, MIT54 (the tall building in the MIT skyline and the target for our first WindLAB) dominates the view, visible even from my dining room window below (extreme left of the skyline).


I don’t know how long I’ll perch there… it’s difficult to predict how lightly I can live vs. how lightly I would ideally like to live. I’m not quite ready to give up my books or my paintings yet, for example, or my odd collection of ball gowns, and I very much want to live with Miss Fish, who may or may not wish to roam the world. I’ll have to consult with her on the matter.

Miss Fish in my pink bedroom

I like walkups. My friend Peri had a 6th floor version in NoHo and all of the climbing was divine for the figure and kept me from bringing up too many castaway items from the street. The only really shocking thing for me here is using the Longfellow instead of the Harvard Bridge to cross the river.

I think I’ve shied away from the LF ever since I got drunk on sake with Jack Wisdom and found myself beneath it, admiring a wall of trophies. I could see that it was a powerful vortex in space-time; anything could happen on or near the LF.  The Harvard Bridge is just a bridge.

Bridge Trophies

Under the Longfellowbottom photo Ryan Anas, the day Bri signed off of the USS Constitution.

I must admit that living at the foot of the LF is a ninjaperfect way to be walking distance from both Harvard and MIT; it’s just a few stops on the ever-handy Red Line, and of course just a hop or a walk across the bridge from MIT/Kendall. Also, it’s where our friend Ron lives, and before I knew he existed, and that we could collaborate with him, I never thought too much about living around Beacon.

Ron isn’t in this photo, but he may as well be, because this moment aloft on 54 with Peter and Steve Imrich from the Cambridge 7 architectural firm was deeply material, as was the morning we went up with Erik and Marty Demaine, and Peter had us all in a circle, affirming our dedication to taking that roof by storm. “Are you in!?”, he said to each of us in turn, in his 1000 watt Peter way, “ARE YOU IN!?”

On the Roof wih Architects

It was an easy question for me, as I’ve known for decades that the building was in my future. I remember when MIT recruited Rick Binzel away from the Planetary Science Institute shortly after I was hired in 1987. He went off to work in this very same building, the one we all called the Needle Of Science; it’s so tall and narrow that people feel isolated, and sometimes depressed inside. I’ve long wanted to help.

I’ve only taken the Boston apartment for a month to begin, but it (and many other apartments as well in this world) are available for longer, and I am curious to know myself where my next real landing place will be. I decided to sell the Tucson house, as it’s clear that my work and my mind are taking me elsewhere. I don’t like hoarding space, and I can’t afford to maintain it if it isn’t my home. We’ll ALL be there the first week in February (come over if you are in town the 2-5!) and then I’ll be saying goodbye.

Cooper Pool May 2013

It’s been a beautiful place to live, an entire urban acre of peace and warmth and sunshine and gentle growth. And the accumulation of way too much awesome STUFF.

workshop table, Cooper House, oct 2010

Palm trees in the sunset, cooper hood, jan 2011

Since I wrote last, I’ve really been all over. We’re moving straight ahead, doing All of the Things, working on the startup of the UnLAB, the furthering of the MIT site projects, and as ever now, the inescapable study of hypars, which are even more prevalent than sights of MIT54.

I’ve interacted meaningfully with a vermillion flycatcher, a female kestrel, a raven, a Navy carrier pilot who flew Vikings, I’ve seen an eagle land in a pine tree, sat down with hedge fund investors in Manhattan, played tennis in Tucson and LA, listened to bartenders and vice presidents. Bartenders know everything.


Danger of Travel on Hypars

It strikes me from watching everything around me that there are a lot of points ready to flip. If you knew what you were looking at here, you could just make a little twisting or untwisting motion on the origami hypar, and it would go “sproing”, flip back into the other way of being, and the deer might look like a deer again.

But, whether it could actually still be a healthy deer… hmm.

We are definitely going to new places with all of the crazy here in the USA, and some of our pieces aren’t going to be the same deer after it’s over. In a way, I feel like it’s my job to think about that now, before things go sproing, I must look for the hidden twists, useful and not useful, and get ourselves sorted out. That way we can move like pole vaulters and not like bugs heading for a windshield.

Because you know, yesterday, the new government froze all of the Federacy agency websites, forbade staff from using social media, and locked out the press. Naturally, science went rogue, BECAUSE FACTS, and because we are the media, and it’s time to do our job. If you’d like to keep up with the plight of these people inside the agencies as we ride our greased rocket to God knows, you can follow them now on their rogue social media accounts.

on Twitter:
@rogueUSedgov@AltRockyNPS@CERN. And many others.

And please plan to join us when Scientists March On Washington, because frankly, we’re not gonna take it. The date of the march will be announced on Monday, and you can sign up for email updates at the link. I expect to see a lot of pink hats back in DC!

Lee,Chang W. -  from camera serial numberPhoto NYT

And remember, if you are Tucson-bound next week, come and find us at the house. Stop by in the evenings of Feb 3, 4, or 5 and come and see what we have to give, share a glass of wine. Leave a comment if you want an email with the address.  I’m going to sell my Miata, too, because I don’t want a car in the city. We can take a farewell ride around the neighborhood, wave at the midnight rabbits. Many changes, but I have a full heart.

And Obamacare. For now.

Kate on her car postcard


these birds, this woman

Love and greetings once again from the big desert. Joshua Trees, soaring mountains, winds that carry the breath of the creatures and plants in Earth’s biome, and layers and layers of sky surround me, swirling. I am quite near Vasquez Rocks, scene of frequent hilarity.


My dead are in mind and in use as much as my living right now; E.B. White, Edward Teller, Carl Sagan, Buckminster Fuller, our grandmothers, our mothers, my friend Alice Olson, my uncle John Freeman. The ancient-named gods of the winds, the sun, the sky, Dali, Henry Miller, Fitzgerald, Gaudi, Saarinen, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury.

More are added every day; 2016 has been cruel beyond cruel; Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Steven Hill, Robert Vaughn, Morley Safer, Merle Haggard, Abe Vigoda, and as if that weren’t enough, Gene Wilder and Alan Rickman. And Trump elected? Are we dreaming, we ask. I console myself that Dick van Dyke remains, as of today.


Each time I walk by the ground squirrels outside where I’m living, or stop for looks back and forth with the robins or ravens in the trees, I think, these birds, this woman, this moment. I smile at them when I pass, sometimes I stop if it is sunny and I make small noises of friendship. They run, or do not run, sometimes they make noises back. I cannot tell one robin from another, but some ravens stand out to me as individuals.

We really ought to be able to translate the rudiments of raven language. So many sounds, so many clicks, so much intention and long-range communication. Such blackness and shininess and smartness. I want to talk to them.


raven photo © Minette Layne via BirdNote.org.

I’ve started playing tennis, I may have mentioned this. In my own way, I’ve been a secret athlete, but other than chess (chess team in high school, represent!) I’ve never really done an organized sport by the rules. I love badminton, but without a net, and with lots and lots of fierce spiking of birds. I like Scrabble, but I like to play upside down and backwards, blanks go wild when they hit the board, 12 tiles, under 30 points a turn you’re drool. For the last four months, though, I’ve played tennis almost every day, and I’ve played hard. And what do you know? I’m a beast! I mean that in the best possible way. It suits me. So I feel strong and healthy.

Also, thrillingly, the work that I began at MIT almost two years ago is coming to fruition in ways beyond any that I could have imagined. Not only are we bringing wind and solar power to the campus, and contributing to the renovation of MIT54, but we are also bringing a lab of world-class scientists, engineers, artists, designers, programmers and business people to tackle the real work of solving problems. We’re all weary of the make-work of administration and corporate and academic and funding constraints and reports and conditions and supervision and forms and consultants and metrics and and. We just want to do work, only work, and in the most enjoyable, deep, meaningful ways possible.

So – we are making our own lab. It’s called the UnLAB, and we’re starting in Boston, this spring. Watch this space for news! Our plans are ambitious and hopeful, but with the lineup we’ve got, it’s hard to go wrong. We look like this:


Finally, exciting beyond belief: after starting over twice (so much beautiful information has come in so many floods this year) I am nearing completion of the final Contemporary Geometric Beadwork books. With something like 6500 $50-$75 investors in our project, it’s a lot of communication, and it will be a beautiful relief to hand over the finished work, and watch it flower in the hands of the people.

More soon…

and maybe a little Willy Wonka?

come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination
take a look and you’ll see into your imagination
there is no life I know to compare with pure imagination
living there you’ll be free
if you truly wish to be

People I love

Hello, people I love. Here is a little Miss Fish to cosmically kiss.

Miss Fish, sun, happy.
Last night was very difficult. For reasons I think we still don’t understand, the US elected Donald Trump.

It was a dark night of the soul for everyone who cares about kindness, fairness, about the example we set for our children, about the future of our planet, the value of the dollar, the value of intelligence, about the rights of women and minorities. The boorish pigs of the world feel vindicated, and people we know and love are going to have serious problems with health insurance, deportation, and the damage to their retirement accounts. We must care for each other as best as we can. What can we do?

We can be strong and kind, and help further good work and good people. I can create places of refuge and sanctuary where work can continue on the things that will really and truly turn our ship: for me, the top two are clean power and clean water.

I’m deeply hurt by the votes of the American people. It’s hard to forgive such ugliness. But I’m the same person today that I was yesterday, and I’m ready and willing to help lead the way to a genuinely different game and story- one that’s global, not political or national, and one that isn’t driven by the exploitation of the planet, people or animals.

So right now, let’s identify what can be sheltered from the coming storm, and get busy protecting it as best as we can. There is a great deal that I can do, actually; I’m fortunate to have already been moving in these directions, including setting up mechanisms to do work outside of the systems.

Breathe, and keep your love moving: this bad time will indeed bring hard changes, but change is a lever open to all. Perhaps this time if we keep our heads, we (the people of the world, not the voters of America) can make a different story arc out of the same old setup.


I love you, and nothing can change that, and you must do the best you can with the hand you are dealt. Me, I am going to get directly back to work, trying to make things better. I’m here for you if you need me.

cranes memorial MIT

Until we meet again

Remembering Gwen; a post from the past on the anniversary of her death in 2013.

Kate McKinnon

My beloved friend Gwen Gibson passed away yesterday.  She was at home, surrounded by people who loved her, peaceful, accepting. As these things go, it was ideal.

Gwen in the kitchen at La Cascade

Gwen, in the kitchen of La Cascade, Durfort, France

I met Gwen when I went for the first time to the South of France and stayed in her lovely old house in the town of Durfort. The house is named La Cascade, and this is the street. The water down the center of the road is the old quench stream for the metalsmiths who created the copperwork that Durfort was famous for.


To quote Gwen, about how it came to be that she should own a house in the South of France,

“An appetite for fresh experience and the need to keep moving take me places I would never have imagined beforehand. Because I find the unknown tempting, I’m often drawn to projects…

View original post 389 more words

spheres of activity

It’s been fantastic to have Henry Segerman (OSU, mathematics and mathematical art) in town. He brought his Ricoh Theta spherical camera, and we loved it. Getting one of my own will really improve my ability to make searchable records of inaccessible sites; these huge images are zoomable, flyable, beautiful records of location. Not only that, if you record a talk with one, you can get the whole room.

Spherical Henry on MIT54 June 2016

If you had the stereo image, and the Ricoh Theta viewer, you could fly around this one, taken by Henry off of the edge of MIT54.

I have a couple of days to myself this weekend to get things in order for about 20 guests (scientists, engineers, and artists) and this is nuts but it’s going to be beautiful. We have three apartments, an auditorium, and a lot of energy. I’ll keep you posted.

Forward Motion at MIT

Work on practical ideas to take the Green Building at MIT energy-zero (and to do it beautifully) is rocketing forward. We should hear this month as to whether or not we’ve made the next wave of the Fuller Challenge; and if we have, we will be pleased to conduct our team interviews with our hard hats on, as we’ve already begun the work.

Arriving in about a week are a steady stream of engineers, students, artists and scientists, including senior program managers from Sandia Labs, Lockheed Martin, the Army and Navy science offices, NASA, DARPA and UTEP. Next week, before they all come in, our job is to gather as much data as we can on our site, our building, and its energy needs and usage.

Pei skyscraper at MIT.jpg

As you can see, the blank river side of the building is ripe for 20 slender stories of wind-eating. One of our most exciting teams (involving engineers from the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and wind artist Ned Kahn) is dreaming up a wall of delicate turbines, something that blends seamlessly with the structure and generates big power.

The Pei is a historical building, so anything we propose for it must make sense architecturally and be almost transparent visually; this is an intriguing challenge and our success with that will determine our chances of approval. Frankly, only the boldest and most astonishing ideas stand a chance, and conveniently that’s exactly what we plan to deliver.

The idea of using beauty like these installations to generate power is compelling.

The principles of spontaneous cooperation are holding solid for our group. People who want to work with us know it immediately, and those who aren’t involved in the work seem to also know that intuitively. It’s interesting; I’ve never seen such a clear middle before. We experience the usual sort of pushback on a daily basis (this is unavoidable when you are working with disruptive ideas) but none of it seems particularly real or solid.

MIT has been extremely generous with access and support, and in addition to an access pass for the EAPS building (and the roof) the registrar’s office has given us full use of the gorgeous, vintage auditorium in the Green (below) and their Drama department has given us enough furnishings, costumes and props to turn both the auditorium and the empty palace we’ve heisted for our students (photo of the entry at the end of this post) into warm spaces.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 6.37.22 AM

Although it’s unlikely that we would need a 250-seat auditorium for our own meeting space (our working group will rarely be more than 25 people) the setting will be perfect for filming interviews, talks, and for filling the blackboards with morphing lists of topics, tasks, and daily schedules. More soon.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 6.41.10 AM